U.S. v. Stierhoff, CR No. 06-042-ML.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
Writing for the CourtLisi
Citation477 F.Supp.2d 423
Docket NumberCR No. 06-042-ML.
Decision Date13 March 2007
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Neil STIERHOFF.
477 F.Supp.2d 423
UNITED STATES of America
v.
Neil STIERHOFF.
CR No. 06-042-ML.
United States District Court, D. Rhode Island.
March 13, 2007.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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John. N. Kane, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Tax Division, Thomas G. Voracek, Tax Division, Northern Criminal Enforcement Section, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, DC, Stephanie S. Browne, United States Attorney's Office, Providence, RI, for United States of America.

Alan S. Richey, Port Hadlock, WA, Scott A. Lutes, Providence, RI, for Neil Stierhoff.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

LISI, Chief District Judge.


Neil Stierhoff ("Defendant") was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 22, 2006, on four counts of tax evasion in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7201. Defendant now moves to suppress statements he made to Rhode Island State Police ("RISP") following his arrest on the night of April 12, 2002. Defendant also moves to suppress evidence seized by RISP during warrantless searches of his vehicle, room, and self-storage units.1 In addition, Defendant seeks to suppress evidence taken from a computer seized from his residence. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to suppress his statements is DENIED, and his motion to suppress evidence is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.

I. Background

In March 2002, a young woman ("Complainant") contacted RISP about a man who she claimed was harassing her. Complainant told RISP that this individual was approaching her at work and giving her cards and poems. Complainant also informed RISP that the man in question was leaving poems on her car while it was parked in a dormitory parking lot at Rhode Island College. Subsequently, RISP obtained the individual's license plate number and identified the individual as Defendant. Between April 4-12, 2002, RISP conducted extensive surveillance of Defendant. On several successive evenings, Defendant was observed approaching Complainant's vehicle which was parked outside of her dormitory.

Concerned with Defendant's behavior, RISP devised a "sting" operation. On the night of April 12, 2002, RISP observed Defendant leave his home and begin driving toward Rhode Island College. RISP instructed Complainant to sit in her car in the student parking lot and await Defendant's arrival on campus. A RISP detective was hidden in the backseat of Complainant's car. When RISP saw Defendant's vehicle arrive on campus, they instructed Complainant to begin driving her car on a predetermined route. Complainant complied, and RISP observed Defendant begin to follow her. RISP eventually instructed Complainant to pull into the parking lot of a Walgreen's Pharmacy and enter the store. Defendant followed Complainant into the store and

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RISP arrested him. Defendant was subsequently convicted in state court of misdemeanor stalking pursuant to R.I. GEN LAWS § 11-59-2. See State v. Stierhoff, 879 A.2d 425, 436 (R.I.2005) (affirming conviction).

II. Findings of Fact

Defendant now moves to suppress evidence seized from his room, self-storage units, and computer. A two-day evidentiary hearing held on December 12-13, 2006, elicited two different' accounts of the events that occurred on April 12-13, 2002. In general, the Court finds the testimony of the government's witnesses to be more credible than the testimony offered by Defendant. Accordingly, the Court largely adopts the government's version-of events. The Court makes the following findings of fact based on the parties' papers and evidence received at the evidentiary hearing.

On April 12, 2002, at approximately 9:30 p.m., RISP observed Defendant follow Complainant into the Walgreen's Pharmacy at 25 Putnam Pike, Johnston. Although approximately ten RISP officers were involved in the surveillance effort, only four officers entered the store and approached Defendant. None of the officers who entered the store were wearing uniforms. RISP observed Defendant standing 10-15 feet from Complainant. According to Detective Timothy Sanzi ("Sanzi"), the officers identified themselves as members of the RISP and asked Defendant to place his hands behind his back. Defendant was handcuffed and searched for weapons. Sanzi and Detective David Palmer ("Pahter") then escorted Defendant out of the store and placed him in the rear of a marked RISP cruiser in the pharmacy parking lot. Sanzi testified that Defendant was quiet and "didn't show a great deal of emotion" during his arrest.' See Suppression Hearing Transcript vol. 1, 114:19-20, December 12, 2006 ("Hr'g Tr."). Similarly, Detective John F. Killian ("Killian") described the Defendant as cooperative and responsive.

After placing Defendant in the rear of the police cruiser, Sanzi proceeded to read Defendant his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444-45, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). See Gov't Ex. A-39. Sanzi testified that he asked Defendant if he understood his rights, and Defendant replied that he did. Defendant was then removed from the police cruiser and searched a second time, this time for identification. RISP seized several pieces of identification from Defendant's wallet. See Gov't Ex.'s A-16 through A-22. Two of the cards found in the wallet bore the name "Joseph Adams." Id. at A-17, A-22. According to Sanzi, there was some concern by RISP about Defendant's true identity and address. During their investigation between April 4-12, 2002, RISP had uncovered multiple names and addresses associated with Defendant. See Gov't Ex.'s A-1 through A-15, A-37, and A-38.

After being searched, Defendant was again placed in the rear of the police cruiser. Sanzi and Palmer began to question Defendant about why he was following the Complainant. Sanzi sat next to Defendant and Palmer sat in the front passenger-side seat. According to Sanzi, Defendant was surprised to learn that RISP had been following him and he "spoke freely about ... his desire to have a relationship with [Complainant]." Hr'g Tr. vol. 1, 66:15-21. Sanzi described the Defendant as articulate and coherent. Id. at 67:6. According to Sanzi, Defendant answered the detectives' questions directly and specifically — "[h]e didn't beat around the bush at all." Id. at 67:9-11. Sanzi testified further that he told Defendant that he was under arrest for stalking. Id. at 146-148. It is undisputed that Defendant never asked for

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an attorney nor indicated to Sanzi and Palmer that he wished to remain silent.

Upon being questioned about his address, Defendant stated that he rented a room on the second floor of a house at 25 Hollywood Road, Providence. Sanzi requested Defendant's permission to search his room. Sanzi told Defendant that the RISP were interested in recovering evidence related to the poems Defendant left on Complainant's car. Specifically, Sanzi informed Defendant that RISP wanted to retrieve the poems that he had generated on his computer. Defendant expressed some concern about awakening his roommates, but eventually agreed to the search. According to Sanzi, Defendant was removed from the police cruiser and his handcuffs were removed from behind his back and placed in front of his body. Defendant was then presented with a consent-to-search form that Sanzi testified he always carried with him. See Gov't Ex. A-23. Defendant was instructed to read the consent-to-search form. Although Sanzi did not read the form to Defendant or ask him to read it aloud, Sanzi testified that Defendant took his time reading the form before he signed it. According to Sanzi, no promises or threats were made to Defendant to induce him to sign. At the time, both the dome light in the cruiser and the parking lot lights were on. Sanzi testified that the officers discussed the consent to search with Defendant for approximately twenty minutes.

After signing the consent-to-search form, five to six RISP officers escorted Defendant in unmarked vehicles to his residence at 25 Hollywood Road. Sometime between 11-11:30 p.m., RISP entered the residence through a side door, which Defendant unlocked using his keys. Defendant escorted the officers to his room on the second floor, and four RISP officers, including Sanzi, Palmer, and Killian, entered Defendant's room. Defendant, still handcuffed, was instructed to sit on a corner of his bed while the search was being conducted. Killian immediately noticed and seized Defendant's computer.2 Sanzi testified that the officers discovered a briefcase containing manila envelopes which, according to Defendant, held approximately $100,000 in cash. Defendant directed Sanzi's attention to a drawer in his desk where another $40,000 or so in cash was found. A search of Defendant's desk uncovered several documents, including a Fleet Bank account statement in the name of "Joseph Adams," with a balance of over $1 million. See Gov't Ex.'s A-24 through A-30. RISP seized the documents that they found on Defendant's desk, but did not seize the cash. According to Sanzi, the documents were seized for identification purposes. Because of Defendant's use of aliases, Sanzi was not "going to be completely satisfied [as to Defendant's true identity] ... until he was fingerprinted." Hr'g Tr. vol. 1, 77:21-23. RISP also seized a package of Harp Workshop greeting cards that they found in Defendant's room. Sanzi testified that the cards were similar in appearance to cards that had been left on Complainant's car.

According to both Sanzi and Killian, Defendant made several statements to RISP during the search of his room. In response to Sanzi's questions concerning the large amount of cash that was found, Defendant stated that he did not believe in banks, and that the money was his personal savings from his business. Sanzi and Killian both testified that Defendant also stated that he did not pay federal or state

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taxes. Defendant told the officers that he operated a computer business under the name of "Joseph Adams," and used his computer to make sales on "Ebay" under the name "JA." See Gov't...

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  • United States v. Cohen, CRIMINAL NO.: WDQ-14-0310
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • May 7, 2015
    ...which, as noted supra note 79, was criticized by the Fourth Circuit in Williams. Cohen also relies on United States v. Stierhoff, 477 F. Supp. 2d 423, 443 (D.R.I. 2007) aff'd, 549 F.3d 19 (1st Cir. 2008), which, in turn, relies in part on Carey. See ECF No. 189 at 2; Stierhoff, 477 F. Supp.......
  • Commonwealth v. Gelfgatt, SJC–11358.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 25, 2014
    ...130 S.Ct. 1028, 175 L.Ed.2d 629 (2009); United States v. Carey, 172 F.3d 1268, 1270–1273 (10th Cir.1999); United States v. Stierhoff, 477 F.Supp.2d 423, 439 n. 8 (D.R.I.2007), aff'd, 549 F.3d 19 (1st Cir.2008). See generally Goldfoot, The Physical Computer and the Fourth Amendment, 16 Berke......
  • U.S. v. Stierhoff, CR No. 06-042-ML.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • August 3, 2007
    ...his statements to police are described in detail in this Court's Memorandum and Order dated March 13, 2007. United States v. Stierhoff, 477 F.Supp.2d 423, 425-30 6. Although his motion was dated June 28, 2007, Defendant did not file his motion for a new trial until 11:44 p.m. on June 29, 20......
  • United States v. Stierhoff, CR. No. 06-0042 ML
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • November 30, 2011
    ...a novel issue of law concerning the acceptable boundaries of a consensual search of computer files. See United States v. Stierhoff, 477 F. Supp. 2d 423 (D.R.I. 2007) ("Stierhoff I").In the instant case, the basic facts and justifying grounds for the requested continuance and excludable time......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • United States v. Cohen, CRIMINAL NO.: WDQ-14-0310
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • May 7, 2015
    ...which, as noted supra note 79, was criticized by the Fourth Circuit in Williams. Cohen also relies on United States v. Stierhoff, 477 F. Supp. 2d 423, 443 (D.R.I. 2007) aff'd, 549 F.3d 19 (1st Cir. 2008), which, in turn, relies in part on Carey. See ECF No. 189 at 2; Stierhoff, 477 F. Supp.......
  • Commonwealth v. Gelfgatt, SJC–11358.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 25, 2014
    ...130 S.Ct. 1028, 175 L.Ed.2d 629 (2009); United States v. Carey, 172 F.3d 1268, 1270–1273 (10th Cir.1999); United States v. Stierhoff, 477 F.Supp.2d 423, 439 n. 8 (D.R.I.2007), aff'd, 549 F.3d 19 (1st Cir.2008). See generally Goldfoot, The Physical Computer and the Fourth Amendment, 16 Berke......
  • U.S. v. Stierhoff, CR No. 06-042-ML.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • August 3, 2007
    ...his statements to police are described in detail in this Court's Memorandum and Order dated March 13, 2007. United States v. Stierhoff, 477 F.Supp.2d 423, 425-30 6. Although his motion was dated June 28, 2007, Defendant did not file his motion for a new trial until 11:44 p.m. on June 29, 20......
  • United States v. Stierhoff, CR. No. 06-0042 ML
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • November 30, 2011
    ...a novel issue of law concerning the acceptable boundaries of a consensual search of computer files. See United States v. Stierhoff, 477 F. Supp. 2d 423 (D.R.I. 2007) ("Stierhoff I").In the instant case, the basic facts and justifying grounds for the requested continuance and excludable time......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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